Saturday, August 30, 2014

More Minis! Part 2: Collector's Lane Kids by Battat

There is a lot of talk and excitement about the American Girl BeForever release.  Personally, I am particularly interested in the new mini dolls, since it seems that they have all-vinyl bodies and different face molds.  These new American Girl dolls, along with Battat's recent Our Generation mini release and the cute little Moxie Girlz sibling dolls, make for a very exciting season for those (like me!) who enjoy smaller dolls.  I have to be patient and wait for my BeForever dolls to arrive, so rather than look at something brand new today, I am going to go back in time and look at Battat's mini doll series from 1999.

While I was writing my review of Battat's newest Our Generation minis, I did several online searches to see what I could learn about the company and its history.  Apparently, Battat has made a few different mini dolls over the years.  In 2011, there were 4-inch Our Generation vinyl dolls with rooted hair.  These minis came packaged with a book and an assortment of accessories.  More than a decade earlier, when the Battat doll line was called "Collector's Lane," there was a group of cloth-bodied 6-inch mini dolls.  Like the current Battat minis, these dolls were made to be little replicas of the concurrent 18-inch characters.  Because of the similarities in construction and size between the new Our Generation minis and the Collector's Lane dolls, I decided it would be fun to see how Battat's smaller dolls have changed over the last fifteen years.

Collector's Lane Kids mini
Battat's Collector's Lane Kids mini "Rachel" doll.
Before I go any further, I should mention that I saw pictures of these Collector's Lane dolls first on Rhonda's site (Snickerdoodle Street), where you can see all four dolls remade as little boys...in addition to many other fun things about miniature dolls.

I was not able to find a complete set of these mini dolls myself.  Rachel (the redhead), Sheri (the blonde), and Elizabeth (the brunette) were available from Amazon, but Vanessa is more elusive.  I could only find one Vanessa on eBay...for almost $30 before shipping.  So, in this review, I will take a close look at Rachel, and then briefly show you the things that are different with Sheri and Elizabeth. 

The Collector's Lane minis come in relatively large cardboard window boxes.  As a reminder, here's the line-up of boxed minis I showed you in the Sparkle Girlz review:

Collector's Lane "Rachel," Our Generation "Sienna," American Girl "Kit," Barbie "Darrin," Ty "Preppy Paige."
Rachel's box shows some signs of wear, but is in pretty good shape for being over a decade old:


Here's a close-up of the text on the back of the box:


I was confused at first, because the box doesn't say "Battat" anywhere on it.  It just acknowledges the Dayton Hudson Corporation, which is the old name for what is now the Target Corporation.  

It also says "THIS IS NOT A TOY" on the bottom of the box.  Really?  It seems like a toy to me.


Rachel is attached to an off-white cardboard shell that has the word "kids" repeated in different sizes in a faint violet color:


There's no effort to conceal the two honking plastic ties savagely sticking out of either side of Rachel's head:

Maybe that's why her eyes are so wide??
There's a small catalogue attached to one edge of the box, which I was pretty happy to see.  I knew this could give me some clues about the line of dolls and accessories that went along with these minis.


On the back of the cardboard backdrop, I found this note:

Very proper.
I am never excited to see plastic ties and "additional threads" (they make my eyes about as wide as Rachel's...) but I have to say that it's nice that there's a warning about them.  

Here's freaked-out Rachel and everything she came with:

Collector's Lane Kids mini
Ahhhh!  Get these things out of my head!
The first thing I did was look at the catalogue.  The front page has this message, confirming that the dolls were made by Battat:


The catalogue is accordion-folded and quite long:


Here's the picture of the 18" Rachel doll:


But notice that for the mini doll, they just printed a smaller picture of the 18" doll:

That's cheating.
Here's the larger Vanessa with her mini, but unfortunately this doesn't give me any idea of what I am missing by not having the Vanessa mini doll:


Except I can tell that I like the larger Vanessa's face mold better than Rachel's.  She's pretty.

There's also a boy character, Jack, in the mix.  As far as I know, there aren't any Our Generation boys.


The catalogue shows some of the Collector's Lane accessories, too.  A few of the pieces are in the "Classic" collection, and look old-fashioned (much like the American Girl historical dolls...):

I love that bench!

And other accessories are more modern, like My American Girl:


Here's Rachel with her bag:

Ah!  A bag? Why is there a bag??  Is there something bad in the bag?
The bag is great.  It is made out of a mix of green, blue and yellow canvas and is constructed like a real bag of this type:



The bag has a rugged (huge) working zipper with a metal pull:


That's what's in the bag.
The blue pockets on either side of the bag even open:


Unfortunately, Rachel did not make as good of a first impression as her bag. 

The combination of her wild-eyed stare and disheveled hair make her look totally stressed out all of the time:

Collector's Lane Kids mini
Which is kind-of endearing.
And while she stands well on her own, her outfit looks bulky and crooked and she is unable to relax her arms down to her sides.


I immediately got to work trying to tame this mess.

What?!!!  Tame?  What do you mean...tame?  
I removed the thick headband first, but quickly realized that it had been serving an important purpose--to cover up the messy edges of the wig.


Most of the dolls in this size range that I own have rooted hair.  I was very surprised to see that this hair is wigged...and I don't think it was a good decision.  I know that it's possible to make high-quality wigs in this size, but I suspect that it's a challenge.  This wig did not rise to the challenge.

It's a disaster.
It's hard to know where to even begin describing this wig, but here it goes: first of all, the fibers are very dry and don't feel nice.  Second, the wig cap is ill-fitting (too loose) and so it bunches up and puckers in many areas.  Third, the rows of hair are placed fairly far apart, and so much of the dark fabric of the cap is visible. Fourth, the hairs around the edges of the wig are very short and scraggly, so even with brushing, it's impossible to get the hair to lay smoothly.  Fifth, the bangs are very thick and refuse to lay down flat.  Sixth, there's a lot of visible glue residue around the hairline.


Seventh, the hair has absolutely no drape or flow--it stays where you put it.  For example, when I lifted the hair up to take the picture of the wig cap (above)...it looked like this when I let go:

Will this wind...be so mighty...
I have to admit that I had quite a bit of fun with the poseable hair, though.  I could take Rachel's panicked personality to the max:

Rachel's Electric, Hair-Raising Freak-Out.
So, after brushing and smoothing and slicking down, this was as neat as I could get Rachel's hair:


And with the headband back on, I could get the bangs to behave a little more:

Collector's Lane Kids mini
Looking pretty cute, actually.

After getting the hair tidied, I promptly messed it up again so that I could pull the bangs back and show you Rachel's face:

What about my face???
Her inset eyes have a nice grey-blue color with a pretty iris pattern, but the placement of the eyes is not good.  The eyes are obviously wonky, but the irises are also too small for the eye sockets--giving Rachel her permanently surprised appearance.  

Her raised eyebrows and lack of eyelashes only exacerbate this perpetual panic:


If you compare Rachel's eyes to the new Our Generation Mini Sienna's eyes, you can see that Battat has come a long way:


Looking at the comparison pictures above, though, I realize I like Rachel's face paint better than Sienna's.  I also think Rachel has a lovely face mold.  Her nose is realistic and her lips have a wonderfully unique shape, with a bit of a wry smirk in them:


If I get brave some day, I might see what happens when I re-wig this doll and give her some new eyes.

Let's take a look at Rachel's outfit.  It definitely looks bulky (her arms can't really move from that position) but it also looks very well made:


As I was taking the jacket off, I came across some of the "additional threads" that I was warned about.  There were two white stitches on either side of the jacket, anchoring it to the underlying shirt:

Not too bad. 
The jean jacket is really cute and very well made.  Every edge is hemmed and serged and all of the details are stitched--no glue in sight.


The jacket has pockets on either side (these don't open, but they have liftable flaps) and three oversized non-working metal buttons:


The buttons have a flower decoration on them:


Rachel is wearing a colorful plastic beaded necklace.  The necklace is strung on elastic, so it stretches over her head and comes off easily:


Underneath the jacket, Rachel is wearing a white pocket tee that opens all of the way down the back for easy dressing:



The tee shirt's single pocket is stitched and actually has an opening:


Undressing Rachel was like opening a matryoshka doll.  She has a lot of layers!  Under the tee shirt, she's wearing a white tank top undershirt:


The undershirt is tucked into a blue denim skirt.  This skirt doesn't have as much detail as the jacket, but it does have working pockets.  Rachel can just barely get her thumb tucked into the very edge of the pocket:



The skirt closes in back with a black metal snap:


Under the skirt, Rachel is wearing white underpants that match her tank top:


One of the things that helps this doll stand so securely on her own is her boots.  She's wearing bright blue soft vinyl boots with impressive treads.  While these boots are quite bendable (making them easy to slide on and off) they also offer a lot of support and stability.


The blue color matches Rachel's jacket well.

Frankenstein called...


If you look at the treads of these boots alongside Rachel's actual feet, you can see that the boots are way too big.  There's a ton of empty space in the toe.  However, if that's what it takes to get her to stand so nicely, I'm ok with it.


Under the vinyl boots, Rachel is wearing little white knit socks.


The tank top has a velcro closure that goes all of the way down the back and the underpants have an elasticized waistband.


Rachel stands pretty well on her own even without her boots.  She has a cloth torso with full vinyl limbs--just like the original American Girl mini dolls.


This doll has an over-stuffed torso and crooked arms, though.  Look at how much lower her right shoulder is than her left:


It's even easier to see from the back:


The construction of this body is just like the American Girl minis and the newer Our Generation minis.  The limbs are strung, and seated into the cloth torso with the help of vinyl sockets.


Here's a peek inside one of the leg sockets so that you can see how it is made:


Rachel's movement is very similar to other cloth-bodied minis...except for the fact that her arm movement is asymmetrical because of the lopsided placement of her right arm.  For example, if I try to position both of her arms up and away from her body in the exact same way, she looks like this:

Move your airplane to the right....
But if her arms are held close to her head, they behave more similarly:

Wait, wait...no, bring it straight forward!
And of course she's good at holding her arms down and away from her body...as she does when she's dressed:

Ready for takeoff!
Rachel has nicely-sculpted legs, with little knee caps and some tendon detail at the back of her knees, too:


 She can do splits, with a little balance help from her arms...


...and with her feet pointed backwards.
Here's Rachel with American Girl Kit (left) and Our Generation Sienna (right):


Rachel is quite a bit shorter than the other two dolls, although their leg lengths look similar.  Most of the height difference is in the torso.  This made me wonder if the dolls would even be able to share clothes--I had been assuming that they would.

Rachel has very detailed fingers compared to these other mini dolls.  She has slightly splayed fingers with little knuckle wrinkles and very distinct fingernails.


Compare this to Sienna's smoother fingers:


Sienna actually had no trouble fitting into Rachel's outfit, which was a big relief to me.  Not only does it fit her well, but I think it suits her coloring:


Rachel's boots also help Sienna to balance much better than she could in her own shoes:


Rachel can also wear Sienna's outfit, but neither the color nor the fit are as flattering:


Kit had a little more trouble fitting into Rachel's outfit.  The trouble was because of the jacket's narrow sleeves and Kit's larger hands.  It was quite difficult to get the cuffs of the jacket over Kit's splayed fingers.


I finally got the jacket on, but I had to cut a few threads to free Kit's fingers.  You can see some of the cut thread ends poking out of the sleeve:


Also, Rachel's skirt is a little loose on Kit, and so it tends to fall down...especially in the back:


However, once everything is on, Kit looks fantastic in this outfit.  The jacket almost perfectly matches her eyes:



Every doll struggles to get into Kit's high-maintenance outfit (because it doesn't have any opening seams) and Rachel was no exception...


But she can wear it well, with the skirt just a tad too long:


The shoes are also too small, but the leather stretches to accommodate Rachel's larger feet.


Now that you've seen Rachel, let me quickly show you the other two dolls I have.  I am not sure yet if these two will come out of their boxes, so I'll just show what I can with them still attached to the cardboard.

I like how the dolls in this series have some cohesive elements in their outfits, but also some fun differences.  For instance, each doll is wearing a jean jacket and a denim skirt, but the colors of these items change from doll to doll.  Also, they all have socks and soft vinyl shoes, but the style and color of each girl's shoes are different.  Each doll carries a bag, but the type of bag varies.

Elizabeth has a bright pink jean jacket, a baseball hat (not a headband, thank goodness) and a backpack:



She's wearing pink strap shoes (with huge treads)--not boots:


Elizabeth has dark brown eyes and medium brown hair.  Her wig might look and feel slightly better than Rachel's, but to me her eyes look much better than Rachel's.  These eyes are set well, and I think that the darker color lessens the wide-eyed craziness that the small irises create:

Collector's Lane Kids mini
I like her a lot.
Sheri is wearing a lime green jean jacket, a lighter denim skirt, a sun hat, and is carrying a messenger bag:


Collector's Lane Kids mini


She's wearing lime green school shoes with a center strap:


Unfortunately, Sheri has the same wide, wonky blue eyes as Rachel...only hers might be slightly better aligned:

Collector's Lane Kids mini

All of these dolls have the same face mold.  Sheri and Rachel have the same skin tone.  I think Elizabeth has a darker skin tone than Sheri, but it's had to tell because Elizabeth's dark hair and brown eyes might be playing a visual trick on me (or on my camera).  


Rachel is not the most photogenic little thing I have ever owned, but here are a few more pictures of her showing off her gravity-defying hair and stiff-armed poses:

Collector's Lane Kids mini





Collector's Lane Kids mini



Bottom line?  The older Collector's Lane Kids dolls are not without charm, but they can't compete with the original American Girl minis or the new Our Generation dolls.

The worst thing about my Rachel doll is her hair.  The color is great and I like the short style, but the wig is ratty and hard to tame, and the hair fiber is unusually dry and stiff.  There are short hairs sticking out everywhere and large patches of wig cap that are way too visible.  It's rare that I see doll hair this bad.

The second biggest problem with Rachel is her eyes. They are poorly set and ill-sized, giving her a permanently surprised look and a lopsided stare.  Both the American Girl painted eyes and the Our Generation inset eyes are superior.

My Rachel's body is also lopsided and over-stuffed, which makes her clothes look tight and crooked.  Her defective shoulder also makes her harder to pose than dolls with similar body construction.

The things I like best about Rachel are her molded features and her clothes.  She has a lot of nice, realistic detail in her head and limbs.  I especially like her charismatic mouth shape and the meticulous detail in her fingers.  Her clothes and bag are wonderful.  Her outfit has an impressive number of well-made pieces that look great on my other dolls.  I especially like the jean jacket, the tiny socks, and the sturdy hiking boots that allow all of my cloth-bodied minis to stand up on their own.  I was very impressed with the construction of the bag, too, and instantly wanted to see all of the other dolls in this series--just so I could inspect their bags.  The price of the Collector's Lane minis varies greatly because of their age, but if you can find one for $10-15, I'd say it would be worth that for the outfit and bag alone.

It was really fun for me to see how Battat's mini dolls have changed over the last fifteen years.  I think that the clothing of the new Our Generation minis is not as nice as the Collector's Lane clothing.  The number of pieces and quality of construction is clearly higher in the older dolls.  However, the character and quality of the dolls themselves has improved noticeably.  The Our Generation minis have glossy, rooted hair and sweet (calm!) faces with realistic inset eyes.  The Our Generation dolls have some neck seam issues here and there, but nothing as dramatic as my Rachel's bum arm and crooked torso.  

I sometimes find that looking back to older dolls and toys gives me a pang of nostalgia, and a sad awareness of how quality can erode over time in the face of a demand for faster and cheaper production.  Happily, that is not what I found in this case.  Battat's recent minis represent a change for the better--something I hope we'll see with the newly-designed American Girl minis, too.


30 comments:

  1. I totally agree about the wild eyed stare of Rachel and Sheri, but that cant stop me from loving these dolls! I think they are cute in their own slightly creepy way. I wonder how these would fare nowadays in stores. hmmm..

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  2. I like Elizabeth best the brown eyes make her look calm. I just went down to AGP Seattle and the BeForever stuff ( For the most part. ) looked pretty cute, the minis look better in person. ( Especially Rebecca's mini, her outfit looks like it has a funny fit online. ) I'm glad Battat gave their minis eyelashes they look funny without eyelashes. I'm also glad Battat learned if you put too much stuff on something small it looks funny. Nice review.

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  3. Rachel's wide eyes slightly creep me out, but mini doll Elizibeth (and large Vanessa) look cute. The Battat dolls nowadays look much cuter and better quality. The new American girl minis look less nice to me, I wish they stillooked like the large 18" dolls. Since quality has been an worry for AG collectors for BeForever (At least for me.) I wonder how the new mini dolls might be. It would be interesting if you did a comparison of the BeForever and Pre-Beforever AG dolls.
    - Zoë from Glowyzoe.blogspot.com

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  4. Oh my goodness, your descriptions had me in stitches! What a face!!! Oh but she is a cutie. I'm super upset about American Girl's change, so I think I might have to buy an OG mini to cheer me up. ;P

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  5. Heh, the pose-able hair is ideal for those shocked-looking eyes - that "electric shock" picture is perfect with those two things together!

    I was surprised how much more I liked her outfit after seeing it on the OG and AG minis as well - funny how a little extra height changes the look so totally.

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  6. Funny enough I only have Vanessa. I'm downsizing my collection. If you'd like to buy her I'd sell her for $10 plus shipping. She has all of her clothing and accessories and I still have the box just not the insert.

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    1. Hi Korianne! That is so nice of you (and a perfect price) but I am actually thinking about selling mine. I don't feel like I need the full set anymore. Thank you so much for the great offer, though!!

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  7. I have Sheri. I bought her at a thrift store, but not knowing she had a name, I named her Charlotte (a variant of the name Sheri!!)
    I liked how you described undressing Rachel as like opening a matryoshka doll. I remember laughing out loud in amazement at seeing the little undershirt on a 6" doll. Luckily my doll doesn't have your dolls torso issues and she stands well even without shoes. (All of my mini dolls are from thrift stores and none of them have shoes!)
    I have seen the new Our Generation mini dolls in the store and they look very nice, but I think these older dolls are adorable and make better "dolls for dolls" which is what the mini dolls are to me.

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    1. Also, your poseable hair pictures are hilarious! Thank you for reviewing these dolls!

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  8. I wish you could still get them, they are quite cute,arent they?

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  9. That stark or wild eyed look is a major complaint I have about Battat/OG dolls, particularly the 18 inch versions. If they ever could get someone to design a pretty doll, (and other companies have managed on the cheap like BFC and JG), they could really give AG some stiff competition with their much better priced dolls. But, alas, they have not been so able.

    Sheri is the cutest of the three you have. However, i have a downright Ugly Sheri. Those dolls can look quite different with the slightest variance in the eyes particularly. Vanessa is adorable, looks like the girl who played Gaby in the Saige movie. But the hair of all of them is very bad, dry and cheap. I've used hot water, conditioner and braid spray to temper this somewhat, but the quality is just not there in the hair fibers.

    Applying eye pencil (Maybelline's is fine)in that white space above the iris makes a bit of a difference in that spacey look. Rachel, by the way, is by far the worst in that look, from what I've seen in a number of photos.

    The outfit does look terrific on Kit. Lots of pieces in these mini Battat outfits which is nice.

    What 4 inch doll did battat release in 2011? I missed that. Unless it's those thinner vinyl things that they included with some of the accessory packs? Don't even put them in the same category as these other minis, if that's the case!

    The hair of the new OG minis is such an improvement from the old Battat--actually the new is much,much better than the old. in this case, I agree.

    Thank you for a great review. Enjoy the time and care you take.

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  10. Hi. I'm thinking about buying my first monster high doll. Do you have any suggestions for an easy , cheaper intro? I'd like one with ears, but clawdeen freaks me out. :)
    Salina

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    1. What about getting a were-cat such as Torali,Meowolody,Purrsephone,or Catty Noir,Caterine De Mew(These are the only MH dolls with EARS that I know of) . As for price/availability Caterine De Mew is probably the cheapest of the bunch.
      Glad I could help.
      I am a doll collector who's main focus is 18 inch/American Girl dolls.But I do own one MH doll,Lagoona Blue.

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    2. Thanks so much Sarah Crewe!

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  11. Her eyes are... interesting. :)

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  12. "Will this wind be so mighty, as to lay low the mountains of the hair?" No. This is why we have combs, you...Oh sorry. I got carried away.

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    1. LOL! You got my Monty Python reference!! I knew somebody would. ;D

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  13. I think the "this is not a toy" means the box and not what's inside the box.

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  14. OMG those eyes! I couldnt stop laughing the whole review.

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  15. OMGOSH POSE-ABLE HAIR!! That is too funny. I have been really loving the smaller scale dolls thanks to your Ruth Treffiesen review. I've now added a bunch of Paola Reina Las Amigas to my collection as well as Les Cheries! I hope you will perhaps do your Les Cheries reivew soon?

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  16. Rachel is so cute! Great feature - made me smile throughout!

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  17. Wait how does her hair stay up?

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  18. I can't wait until someone does a review on the Be Forever Mini dolls !!!!!

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  19. It is sad that they don't sell these dolls anymore,but it is good that made new minis. I do like the new OG mini dolls more that those ones.

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  20. She's cute, but not quite as cute as your other mini dolls. I think it is the lack of eyelashes.

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  21. Lol that picture you took of Rachel trying to get into kits clothes!

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  22. of that line up the our generation doll was the best. that new one had the creepiest face/eyes. I think if that doll was in my room i'd have nightmares chucky style o.O
    The american girl doll is also cute, but i think the our generation one has a better face.

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  23. jestem szczerze zauroczona tymi buźkami!!!

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  24. Find out if the zippers on the bag are made of plastic and are safe. toddler bag

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